WASHINGTON — Fr Everett Pearson, a veteran African-American Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, passed away on August 23 in Northern Virginia after an extended illness. He was 61 years old.
The news was first announced by his parish, Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Forestville, Maryland, and nearby Bishop McNamara High School, where Pearson also served.
“We all wanted Father Everett to be released from pain and suffering,” the parish posted on social media.
“Even though it’s not the outcome we may have hoped for, God knew what was best and called him home.”
Born in Washington, DC on October 2, 1960, Pearson was raised Catholic, first educated at Nativity Catholic School in DC and graduating from Archbishop Carroll High School in 1978. He worked with the Catholic Youth Organization and also the Boy Scouts of America, according to his parish biography.
Called to ministry from a young age, he entered the seminary in 1984 and later studied in Rome, where he received a degree in Sacred Theology from the Angelicum. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1991, before returning to Rome three years later to obtain a Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
“[The Black community is] starving for evangelization,” he told the Catholic Standard in an interview before his ordination.
“They don’t always feel invited… If people see me happy with Jesus Christ, maybe they’ll follow.”
Pearson became pastor of Mount Calvary in 2009 and administrator at the Church of the Holy Spirit in 2012, while also serving in vocations ministry for the archdiocese and on the Priest Retirement Board. He was also a chaplain for a local council of the Knights of Columbus.
Well-known to Black Catholics regionally and nationally, Pearson in recent years would lend his parish as a meeting place for local African-American clergy, sisters, brothers, and seminarians. He also hosted a 30th-anniversary celebration there last year for the five members of his ordination class, one of whom was deceased.
Pearson himself had experienced a brush with death just two years earlier, when he was hospitalized in January 2019 and was in critical condition. Despite continued illness thereafter, he continued to serve faithfully—including in an event earlier this year with Pax Christi USA where he celebrated a Mass marking the two-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.
In the wake of Pearson’s own death, tributes poured in online from various friends, parishioners, and institutions around the country, noting his spirit of service and dedication to the community.
A Vigil Mass for Pearson will be held on Thursday, September 1 at Mount Calvary at 7:30pm ET, with a viewing beforehand from 3-7pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the parish by Cardinal Wilton Gregory on Friday at 10:30am, following a viewing at 9am.
After Friday's Funeral Mass, interment will take place at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in DC, and a reception will follow at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).